(STL.News) – Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced his departure from the department today, effective as of July 3, 2020.
“Brian has served the Department with distinction,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “This was his sixth senior leadership role at Justice, and the entire Department benefitted from his managerial expertise, institutional knowledge, and sound judgment. In addition to his able handling of some of the most complex white-collar investigations the Department has ever conducted, one of his greatest contributions to the country were his efforts combatting the nation’s opioid crisis. His decision to use data analytics changed our approach and undoubtedly saved many lives. That is just one example of the many ways Brian innovatively approached today’s law enforcement challenges to make a lasting impact. I am deeply appreciative for his service to the Department and our nation.”
“It truly has been the honor of my professional career to serve at the department once again, and to lead the men and women of the Criminal Division,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said. “Their work ethic and steadfast commitment to the cause of justice, the rule of law, and vindicating the rights of victims, have inspired me every day.”
During Benczkowski’s tenure as Assistant Attorney General, the Criminal Division has placed a renewed emphasis on exploring the use of data analytics in targeting for criminal investigations and prosecutions. The division has expanded its in-house data analytics support team and made critical investments in data analytics to help ensure that prosecutors are fully leveraging the use of data and statistics to build cases.
In October 2018, the division announced the formation of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, which combines data analytics with traditional law enforcement tools to effectively and efficiently prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids in the Appalachian region. The Strike Force, which currently includes 10 U.S. Attorney’s Office Districts, coordinated takedowns in April and September 2019, resulting in charges against 73 defendants, including 64 licensed medical professionals and 48 prescribers, who were involved the alleged illegal distribution of 50 million controlled substance pills. To date, 27 defendants have pled guilty, and one defendant has been convicted after trial.
The division is also using data analytics as part of an initiative announced in 2018 to investigate and prosecute manipulation of the commodities futures markets by traders injecting orders – that the trader intends to cancel – designed to trick market participants into trading at inaccurate price points. Our efforts have resulted in numerous guilty pleas of individual traders, as well as a June 2019 NPA with Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc.; a November 2019 deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Tower Research Capital, a New York-based financial services firm; and a January 2020 DPA with Propex Derivatives, an Australia-based trading firm, each of which also settled with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in parallel proceedings.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the division has turned to its expertise using data analytics to help facilitate investigating individuals and businesses who make false statements to defraud the government – and in some instances, banks – to receive stimulus payments from CARES Act programs, with a particular focus on fraud relating to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). To date, the division has charged PPP fraud in six cases against seven defendants. The division has also conducted outreach to agencies implementing and overseeing CARES Act funds to assist in developing application forms, draft reporting requirements, and advise on protocols that will facilitate future investigation.